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On Transportation Pollution: My first peer-reviewed publication

In the world of academia, one of the things you regularly try to do is publish your research in peer-reviewed journals. Peer-reviewing is the process of having your work evaluated by experts in a field. The process has its benefits and drawbacks, but overall it has worked well for quite a while.

Libertarians can have a difficult time publishing because our work often goes against the deeply held beliefs of academics, many of whom advocate for more government intervention and are completely against the free market. Although some journals truly are dedicated to libertarian scholarship, such as the newly established Libertarian Papers, getting libertarian ideas into mainstream academia is not the easiest thing in the world.

Nevertheless, we do have a lot to add to the academic arena, for example the area of pollution. A little over a year ago I wrote a paper about transportation pollution, and I presented it at the Austrian Scholars Conference in 2008. Under the advisement of Walter Block, I began submitting the paper to journals for publication. This morning I received word from the editor of Ethics, Place, & Environment that my article, Can the Government Solve Transportation Pollution?, has been accepted for publication in their next issue! This is very exciting for me, as it is my first publication ever in a peer-reviewed journal.

I’ll summarize the paper briefly for you. First off, here’s the abstract:

Most people presume that government is always responsible for providing solutions to pollution problems, including transportation pollution. This paper examines the validity of this argument from a minarchist libertarian, property rights principles perspective, and concludes that government cannot solve these problems using command-and-control legislation. The primary policy suggested for government to adopt is the strict adherence to property rights protection and enforcement regarding polluters, including themselves. Further encouragement of market forces could be accomplished by stopping interference within the market at critical points, namely the production of roads, production and sales of automobiles, and the subsidization of alternative fuels.

The thesis of the paper is that the free market is a much better preventer of pollution than the government, and in fact that government actually exacerbates pollution problems through regulation and lack of adequate property rights protection:

Experts disagree on whether or not global climate change will actually be detrimental to the world as a whole over time, but let us presume for a moment that the “inconvenient truth” of Al Gore really is happening and that humans really are in danger from excess carbon emissions. Can government intervention actually make a difference? Why is it so commonly accepted that the free market cannot handle pollution? Are there any relevant examples in the past that we can examine? This paper demonstrates from a libertarian perspective that the free market can and will handle pollution when property rights are justly enforced, and that the free market will do so better than government ever could.

I outline the arguments for the free market as opposed to command-and-control socialistic regulations, and show how governments are actually much worse polluters than private industry. The rest of the paper is spent advocating various free market solutions to pollution problems – and basically the message is get the government out.

Here’s a list of some of the measures I mention, some of which you already saw in the abstract:

  • Politicians need to stop acting like the only thing standing between civilized life and total destruction is government intervention (not a “free market” solution per se, but necessary).
  • Restore property rights protection regarding pollution. If you dump waste and hurt someone, you’re 100% liable.
  • Allow for private road systems, and road owners are responsible for the pollution coming off the roads.
  • Remove layers of government control on new vehicle production
  • Eliminate taxes and tariffs on new vehicles, in particular those with high gas mileage ratings
  • Eliminate taxes on existing vehicle repairs and upgrades
  • Provide tax deductions for efficiency improvements on existing vehicles
  • Quit penalizing entrepreneurs trying to figure out other solutions (like stopping vegetable oil vehicle drivers from being fined for breaking regulations)
  • Quit subsidizing alternative fuels, especially bio-ethanol

I will try to receive permission to host the article on this website after the issue is released, but it depends on what I am permitted to do with it (copyright law, blech).

So all in all, a victory for the cause of liberty today in my book! :-)

LCI posts articles representing a broad range of views from authors who identify as both Christian and libertarian. Of course, not everyone will agree with every article, and not every article represents an official position from LCI. Please direct any inquiries regarding the specifics of the article to the author. 

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